Saturday, March 30, 2013

Starting Over

Over the years I've made so many mistakes that I've become some what of an expert in getting up and moving on.  It's not something I like to be an expert in, I'd much rather be an expert in walking right, but as a friend of mine would say "it is what it is".

So anyway, getting up and moving on. How do you do that when you've made the biggest mistake you can ever possibly make? What's worse is that so many people know what you've done, right? You can't possibly walk away from that kind of shame. Or can you?

Step one: Forgive yourself. You've already asked God for forgiveness or else you wouldn't be trying to move on. He's forgiven you so now it's time to forgive yourself. I know, I know. You feel dumb for making the decisions you did because you should have known better, right? Doesn't matter. What's done is already done, what matters now is what you do next. So forgive yourself.

Step two: Remember that your sin is no bigger than anybody else's. Yup, that's right. The biggest gossipers in church right now talking about you are no better than you, no matter what you did. God evaluates all sin on the same playing field. We're all equal in that light. So quit worrying about what other people think. At least you're dealing with your stuff, that puts you a step further than the rest of them.

Step three: Get out of the house! Quit isolating yourself. That's not going to help you feel any better. And if you're trying to break a bad habit, doing it alone will ensure failure. I'm sure you have at least one friend standing in your corner. Reach out to that person and let them be your friend. If you really have no one,  then remember that God is there. Even though you feel stupid doing it, talk to Him out loud the way you would talk to a friend. That will help strengthen not only you but also your relationship with him. However, God is a great friend, the best really, but sometimes you just need human companionship. Ask Him so send you a friend who can build you up instead of breaking you down. He'll provide one.

Step four: Make a deliberate effort to rebuild your relationship with God. This is going to be hard because you'll feel like you failed Him and He shouldn't even forgive you, but trust me, He's the best friend you can have right now. Only a stronger relationship with Him will keep you from making the same mistake twice.

Now, go with God and with your head held high.

Joana James - Author of From Redemption to MaturityTrusting God with your Future,   Nightmare at Emerald High & Alana and Alyssa's Secret & Finding Romeo 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Using Discernment

Discernment - it's a big word that's thrown around a lot in Christianity. It became part of our jargon a long time ago and I suspect some of us have forgotten what it really means. Some of us have developed it but are too busy being pleased with ourselves for having discernment to be interested in using it.

So what is discernment really? describes it as this: acuteness of judgement and understanding. In layman's terms, this simply means being a good judge of the situations and people around us and being able to see them for what they are rather than what they seem to be.

Discernment is essential. It helps to stay away from bad situations and keep safe, both physically and spiritually. Discernment is what will keep you walking away from a guy who asks you out nicely but has an ulterior motive, or from a financial transaction that promises great wealth but is run by a con man.

Wow, discernment. It's a great thing to have isn't it. We all have some measure of it, but some of us have what is referred to as "The Gift of Discernment". It means that we are able to judge situations correctly long before most people begin to see the light.

So what do we do with all this discernment. Whether we have been blessed with the "gift" or we just have plain old simple biblical wisdom and power from Holy Spirit to "see" stuff, discernment isn't just so that we can sit around and say we saw the evil in a person or situation long before anybody else. Unfortunately, that's what a lot of us do with it. For a long time, that's all I did with it. I'm one of those people who was "blessed" with the "gift". I usually discern a person or situation long before anybody else and I'm usually right. Unfortunately for me, when it came to speaking out or even acting on this gift for my own good, I was a coward. I always felt like I was judging someone. You know how we like to misuse the verse "Judge not that you not be judged" (Matthew 7:1) and use if for our own self-righteous vindication. I was always afraid that someone would call me out on "judging" them the wrong way. So, instead, I walked into situations that I knew were fishy because I didn't want to offend anybody.

Today, I sit back with a bit more maturity and I laugh at myself. I got engaged to a guy 7 years ago knowing very well that he wasn't the one God wanted in my life. I knew there were things about him that I wouldn't be able to live with and there were things about his christian walk that sounded like a screeching violin to my spirit. Holy Spirit was begging me to get out of there, but I didn't want to offend him. I didn't want to judge him. I lied to myself and said maybe I was there to help him. What I was really doing was offending Holy Spirit. He took time to show me a dangerous situation and I ignored Him. Wow. Of course, I learned the hard way. There was a messy break-up that led to a serious of bad relationships thereafter. I was wounded by that guy and to some extent I felt like I needed to show him that I could move on. Instead, I walked head first into the WORST relationship ever. (Another one I discerned before I walked in but went anyway.)

If only I had learned to act on what I knew to be truth. You see, just having discernment isn't enough. There's an act of obedience that must follow otherwise it would make no sense that we could see all that stuff. God didn't bless us with an early warning system just so that we could boast about it. He gave it to us to use for our own safety (physically and spiritually). Please don't be like me and continue walking even though you hear alarm bells ringing. People who scream "don't judge me" are usually the ones you need to look out for first. They're the ones with messes we need to avoid. Of course, we are not God and subjecting someone to condemnation isn't our place, but it is our place to see a person or situation for what they are and act to protect ourselves.

Remember that discernment isn't just so that we can say we have it, but that we can act on it to save our own butts or the butts of our next door neighbours.

Be blessed and have a very discerning day.

Joana James - Author of From Redemption to MaturityTrusting God with your Future,   Nightmare at Emerald High & Alana and Alyssa's Secret & Finding Romeo 

Monday, March 18, 2013

When God doesn't make sense

If you've been a Christian for a while you'll know that there are times when what God does makes absolutely no sense to you. Even if you've been a Christian for only a short time, most of the time you'll be at a loss trying to understand how the wide range of things that happen to you on a daily basis are supposed to fit together and work out for good.

So what do you do when God simply makes no sense to you? Trust Him. Simple answer right. Yeah, yeah, I know. It's not the one that you want. You probably thought I was going to say something wonderful and profound and give you a kick-start on your week right? Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you.

For the myriad of times that God will make no sense to you, you simply have to trust. You have to learn to trust that He has the Big Picture and He knows what's best.

So here I am preaching to myself 'cause right now, God makes absolutely no sense to me. What He's doing is driving me up the wall and if I let it, it may just drive me away from Him. I have a lot of questions that are going unanswered. I also have a lot of requests that seem to be ignored. Sigh. So now what?


It's an issue that comes up over and over in my walk with God because in general as an individual, I have trust issues. I also have control issues, I wanna be in control of my life at all times. That's not good. Not for a Christian so it's safe to say that God and I are almost always in a tug-of-war. He wants my problems so He can solve them, but I keep taking them back because His way doesn't seem to make sense to me.


That's all it takes really. Trust. Trusting that God knows what He's doing and that things will work out in the end. Trusting that God has your best interest at heart. Trusting that all the little pieces of the puzzle will come together nicely and will create a great big picture that makes perfect sense.

Ah Trust. Five letters that feel like five mountains that need to be moved. (Faith moves mountains right? But that's a whole other sermon)

At the end of the day, when God makes no sense, when the things he does seem like they're meant to hurt us, not help us, when He is silent and when it seems like He is doing nothing, remember to trust. He's still in control and always will be. Trust. Trust that He knows what He's doing and He's doing it in our favour. Trust that His way is perfect and complete.


Now it's time to follow my own advice. (You should too).

Joana James - Author of From Redemption to MaturityTrusting God with your Future,   Nightmare at Emerald High & Alana and Alyssa's Secret & Finding Romeo 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Overcoming Pain through Praise

When going through a difficult situation, it's pretty easy to give up and curse God. "God why do you have to let all these bad things happen to me?" Actually, if God had to let all the bad things that could happen to you happen, you'd be in pretty horrible shape right now. I don't quite understand why God allows certain things to happen in our lives, but I do know from experience, that things usually work out just fine if you keep trusting him.

So what do you do when a situation seems so painful that it threatens to pushed you down, keep you down and suck all the life out of you. I've found a little remedy. You know the bible says to put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, but I only knew that it worked in theory, one could understand why it would work but I never really truly understood or experienced it till now.

I have a pretty crazy personality and I refuse to be kept down, so my response to just about anything depressing is to turn up the volume on my music and go crazy dancing in front of my mirror. (Trust me, it's not a pretty sight). This time, I turned up the volume and threw up hands in praise. This praise thing is serious. You could literally feel the load being lifted off your back. You find your faith being renewed as your Spirit connect's with God's. No words are exchanged but you can literally feel God comforting you. I've had the experience where I actually felt arms wrapped around me when I needed to be comforted. Yes, praise does that.

Praise invites God's presence because He loves it when you praise Him. He comes and "chills" in the room, just basking in the glow of your praise. At the same time, your spirit is communicating the hurt that you feel and He responds. Wow. Praise is a truly beautiful thing.

I've learned to trust God again through my praise. My heavy heart has been lifted through my praise. Impossible situations suddenly became bearable after praise. Praise is pretty powerful.

I dare you today to try it. Overcome the depths of your pain with a song. You may not be able to sing it at first, but turn up the volume on your favourite CD or praise station and let the lyrics/music take your spirit into the realms of true praise, then watch God move.

Have a praise filled day.

Today's a good day because my second devotional book Trusting God with your Future is FREE for kindle. 

Trusting God with Your Future is a compilation of some of the devotionals on this blog. If you find it difficult to keep track of my postings (after all there is no schedule), or if you just want to be able to sit quietly in bed on a morning or late at night without having to navigate to the site, then grab a copy.

It's FREE until March 7, 2013

Monday, March 4, 2013

All we need is Love

So my mother died. Wow.

One year ago, she found out she had stage four ovarian cancer. It was a rough battle, one that I could barely handle. Many of my posts in the last year were inspired by the depths of the pain I felt during her illness. Only one person could have brought me through all that...God.

My mother was a Christian for the last 44 years of her life. She served God faithfully throughout that time, never looking back. Everybody who knew her, knew of her dedication to Christ. It was easy to love her as she had the heart and attitude of one called to serve. She was a mother to all my friends and countless others. Some even called her mommy too. I remember inviting friends over to hang out or sleep over and their breakfast/lunch/dinner would be brought to them in my room whilst I had to go in search of mine in the kitchen.

She was one of the most self-less people I knew. I remember when I was still a teen, there were two young boys who moved into our neighbourhood. We're a small island and an even smaller community so almost nothing goes unnoticed. Those two boys were under privileged at best. Within weeks they were left on their own by a mother who went off to a different island seeking work. For six months, those boys were on their own. They had no food and no money. The older of the two was no more than 12 years old at the time. But those boys didn't starve. Not whilst my mother was on watch. There was no way she would allow that to happen. I remember her waking early every morning to prepare breakfast for them. I remember her adding items to our grocery list just for them; we weren't rich and money was always tight but on the meager amount of money that she had she would find a way.

Things like that helped shape me. I didn't understand her drive or her desire to help others at the time, but I knew that she was something special. She didn't have a college degree or even a secondary school education, but she did what she could to change the world and her efforts were not in vain. Several years later, the older of the two boys met me in a store and couldn't stop thanking me on behalf of my mother. He was all grown up, gainfully employed and a contributor to society. Only God knows what would have happened to that boy had my mother not stepped in.

Years later, I saw her kind heart in action again with another neighbour,  this time an older woman near the end of her life. This lady had two children, a boy and a girl, however none of them were around to help her. She was getting older and weaker and unable to even feed herself. So my mother stepped in. For a period of about two years my mother bathed and fed this lady. Again, from her own money, she would buy food, medicine, adult diapers and pay the utilities at the house until the lady passed.

Just before she died, I visited her and she was rather weak. Now, she was the one who needed to be bathed, fed and changed. Somehow though, she couldn't bare the thought. She said something that really struck me, she said "The very same thing I did for Ms. G , somebody now has to do for me".

In that one sentence, I learned the lesson of a lifetime. You NEVER know where life will take you. One year ago my mother was a plump 62 year old rocking her senior years. She had better fashion sense than me and probably had more fun than me too. By the time she passed away,  at age 63, she was completely emaciated;  the cancer had sucked the life out of her. She went from strong and vibrant, to frail and helpless in almost no time at all. None of us are invincible. Nor are we immortal. My mother lived a very simple life and she lived it with a very kind heart. She worked hard and took care of her six children the best way she knew how. Even to her death, she was more worried about us than about her own self.

So today, I've learned the lesson that my mother obviously understood. In Matthew 22, Jesus gave two commandments, love the Lord thy God with all your heart and love your neighbour as you love yourself. Mom followed both those commandments till the day she died, and I will too.

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37- 40

Saturday, March 2, 2013


The one thing that makes us distinctly human, is also the thing that is our undoing.  Every other created being acts mainly on instinct but we human beings can choose what we do or don't do. Choice is an amazing thing. It makes us feel liberated. Slavery was built on a simple premise, remove choice and you control an entire race.

God could have chosen to create us with no choice. It certainly would have been much easier to deal with us, and perhaps the world wouldn't have been so screwed up. However, what kind of world would that be. We'd be walking around like a bunch of robots, doing exactly what we were programmed to do. When God was creating us, He was thinking like a lover. He loves us and He wants our love in return, but he wants us to choose to give it. Can you imagine being with someone who loves you simply because it's what they were told to do. Life would be pretty boring. The sense of excitement you feel when you're chosen would cease to exist. Love would become boring. I believe God foresaw all of that, that's why He gave us a choice.

Choice however, is a dangerous thing. Like I said earlier, it makes us feel liberated. The option is ours to love or not, to do right or wrong, to live or die. But with that liberation comes great responsibility. The current state of the world is testament to the fact that many humans have chosen wrongly. We could choose to love and share, instead we chose to fight for the earth's resources. We could choose to tolerate and embrace racial differences, instead to chose to enslave one another. Every day, humans make choices to do the wrong thing. We spend billions on all kinds of weapons whilst all over the planet, children are starving. Most tragically, we use our freedom of choice to hunt everywhere for a god or examples of one when the real God is standing right there in front of us waiting for our love. Choice.

A lot of us have made the right choice and have chosen to love the one true God, but that's where it starts and ends for some of us. We have chosen to be lukewarm there after, ignoring the mandate to be different, to show love and to spread the gospel. Instead, we choose to live our lives gathering worldly possessions and ignoring the plight of our neighbours and friends. We choose to walk past a teenager who desperately needs guidance. We choose to walk past our neighbour who desperately needs help feeding their children. In our minds we say that it's someone else's problem. So we continue on to church, to work, to school, to play, choosing to ignore the mandate given to us by our saviour, not recognizing the opportunities to be a blessing.

Today, let us to choose to love, to live and let live, to trust, to share and to live right. Just like a parent, God gave us choice expecting us to choose the right things, instead we broke his heart and chose everything else but Him.

Use your freedom to choose and choose wisely.

Joana James - Author of From Redemption to MaturityTrusting God with your Future,   Nightmare at Emerald High & Alana and Alyssa's Secret & Finding Romeo